On Sunday, November 24 the CBS program 60 Minutes aired “The War Within: Treating PTSD,” a documentary about vets with PTSD in therapy. The treatment discussed was Prolonged Exposure Therapy. While CBS does not seem to take a stance on the question of whether this particular therapy is effective, I believe that all SE® Practitioners who saw the program were heartbroken by the vets' suffering and frustrated by the fact that Somatic Experiencing® could do so much more to help these people getting their lives back.
If you have not seen the 60 Minutes documentary, you can watch it below (or click here to open it in a new window) –
In response to the program and the concern many of you have expressed, I am writing to update you on efforts the SE Trauma Institute is making to effect positive change for our military personnel and veterans.
I live in San Diego, which has a large community of vets, and I'm feeling on a daily basis the suffering that is the direct result of the job we asked these people to do for our country. It breaks my heart, and I think we can make a change. Peter Levine recently dedicated two case consultations to working with vets, in Los Angeles and San Diego, with the help of Vanessa Hughes, an SEP who works at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I attended both days, and I can tell you I have never seen a room so filled with love. SE works!
For the last few months, Peter has also been working on a video project that will help vets and active duty military understand the power of SE in dealing with PTSD. Through the generosity of several donors, the SE Trauma Institute will be able to fund production of this video, which will be completed this winter. We intend to distribute it free of charge over the Internet to all of you, to help promote SE within the military communities. We will also use it to crack open doors at the very top of the VA, and we will send it to 60 Minutes, in hope of inspiring a follow-up documentary with CBS on the healing of PTSD.
In addition to the video, we are forming a task force to understand better how we can build trust within the military community. While our ultimate goal is to get vets to work with SEPs, we must first address trust issues, misunderstandings about vets, behavioral differences, issues with therapy, and so on. We are teaming up with vets and VA personnel to explore these challenges in detail, and we expect to start a pilot project in 2014, offering services on a small scale. Once we know how we can make this work, we will share our findings with you and look at ways to start a broader movement to get SE to the vets who need us most. For that we will need your hearts, and your help.
I will keep you posted on developments, and let you know as soon as possible when the video is available for distribution.
– Rob Gussenhoven
Rob Gussenhoven is the interim executive director at the SE Trauma Institute.